Saturday, December 31, 2005

Reality Check for the Traveling Flats Fisherman

As flats fishing has exploded into a global fishery, there's many exciting species sight-cast, caught, and released in knee- deep water. The first wave of exploring anglers may find habitat and fisheries in far-flung places that are incredible because of their remoteness- a relative term. Yet, horror stories of problems, crises, and actual harm to anglers are not infrequent because the destinations, guides, owners, supplies, and local governments are shaky, inexperienced, on a shoestring budget, and poorly equipped.

Before you settle on a destination, check out your guide, their availability, and their skiffs by asking or getting written verifiable responses. Unless you're working flats within sight of your lodge and with fully given float/fish plans TO THE ONSITE LODGE PERSON, you absolutely should have cellphone and VHF radio backup. Try to visualize running twenty miles in a 16 foot tiller handle skiff and your engine dies..your youthful guide looks up at you with a quizzical, good-natured smile. What's your next step? Wait for another boat? When will that be? These and similar kinds of incidents have happened more than a few times off Andros, the Amazon Basin, and the Carib side of Mexico, according to reports I've seen. This has nothing to do with those countries, but it does with the people that run those camps, as well as poorly-trained, poorly- equipped flats fishing guides. Some intrepid souls treat these situations as adventure and inevitable manifestations of new, unfolding areas. I am grateful for this, as these problems should have been rectified by the time it becomes a possibility for me.

I want my safety concerns addressed right away, so I can stow them and enjoy the flats fishing experience. I insist that the guide, skiff, and the lodge has what it takes or else I do not recommend them. I also respond to the inquiries of other anglers why I never bothered with certain destinations. I always involve the camp owners, guides, and outfitters with any problem, so they can respond and correct it, as well as to see if they simply care. The most important thing for the globe-trotting flats angler is to do their homework or have it done for them by a good outfitter who have these destinations as part of their inventory. Be sure to check out the outfitter as well- generally the well-established outfitters have done site inspections and create a de facto quality control for the lodges. Again, this does not guarantee a safe happy trip, but it helps!


Friday, December 30, 2005

Relativity and Theorizing on Bones and Tarpon

Quick note: Happy non-traveling fish are "there" because the habitat fits them and there's food- not much different than you and I. Yet within a given species, their habitat OF THE TIME MAKES GENERALIZATIONS RISKY. Sure, some Keys guides say " no current, no bones." That would be fine, but precede it with "right here." In the Marls of Abaco, there's little current and poling and access is determined on the wind's effect on water levels. That's a nursery area and the bones love to eat and grow in those still waters and food-rich bottom. Ditto, the salinas of Bonaire.

Others doing pass, cut, or basin fishing for tarpon can watch them roll enticingly without a strike and then a "bite" begins. Scoot down to the lagunas from Merida to Campeche and those unpressured tarpon grab almost every fly or lure tossed at them. Same species, but different habitats and circumstances-adopt a relativistic attitude: you'll be more on the mark!


Thursday, December 29, 2005

As Posted on the Internet

As Posted by South Florida Sport Fishing Magazine

Tips and Tales

Braving the Ferocious Barracuda
By Jan S. Maizler

More and more inshore anglers are learning to appreciate one of the most powerful and ferocious shallow water predators on the face of the earth — THE BARRACUDA!

Anglers usually pursue inshore barracuda strictly as a default species. This needs to change. South Florida offers a vibrant and viable barracuda fishery that stands on it’s own. Fish ranging from four to forty pounds stand ready to do battle and will test your tackle to its absolute limits.One guide who is at the forefront of this untapped fishery is Captain Jon Cooper of Still Waters Charters. A full time south Florida flats fishing guide and certified fly casting instructor, Jon takes fishing charters from Fort Lauderdale to the Keys including the beautiful flats of Biscayne Bay in Biscayne National Park. Jon is an ace inshore and flats specialist who targets ‘cuda year- round. The variety of tackle and techniques he uses, produces trophy sized fish that turn his customers into ecstatic ‘cuda fanatics!Let’s take a closer look at this fishery. There’s basically two variations of ‘cudaNfishing in the shallows. First are theNoutside sand flats from Biscayne Bay to Key West where anglers are usually seen pursuing bonefish, tarpon and permit. The other angle is hitting the inland bay environments, which are home to deeper grass flats and large numbers of these mean looking fish. In both areas, barracuda are the most abundant year-round inshore flats species and can remain in the shallows during the colder months when other shallow water species are long gone.Barracuda, similar to many other game fish, lose their high ranked fighting qualities when caught unintentionally on heavy tackle. Make no mistake, pound for pound this toothy critter is right up there. A beefy 20 pounder on a silky smooth 8 lb. spinning outfit while in 2 feet of water is an experience you will not soon forget. They fight like crazy and with their huge, powerful tail can fly through the air so high up, you wouldn’t believe unless you saw it for yourself.Targeting ‘cuda‚ with light tackle in sometimes just inches of water , is as distinctive and exciting as sport fishing can get. You can often sight-cast to the individual fish, and watch throughout the entire pursuit, strike, fight and release. If that doesn’t get you pumped, than what will? Once hooked up, shallow water ‘cuda become adrenaline-filled rocket ships. They make long surface runs, which climax in arching leaps and often go higher and stay aloft longer than the supposedly more glamorous tarpon.Barracuda are the most predatory of all shallow water fish, as well as being one of the most curious. These characteristics are essential to remember in establishing a game plan prior to getting out on the water. ‘Cuda are frequently spotted motionless, laying low and waiting for an unsuspecting baitfish to get caught off guard. As predators, ‘cuda have the added ability to change colors based on the bottom which they are hovering over. This chameleon like trait has helped smaller fish avoid death by predatory birds from above and now as larger fish, they use this tactic to camouflage themselves from the prey that they are about to eat. Off the line, big barracuda are also the fastest shallow water fish, due to the broad size of their tail. They were given this ability by nature, because of the necessity to frequently pounce on prey from a motionless stance.Another important characteristic to take into consideration as a stalk and charge predator, the things that raise a ‘cuda’s eyebrows are distress signals.

‘Cuda equate splashes and movement on the water’s surface with senses of the perfect opportune meal — which of course is a struggling baitfish. You should always remember, regardless if the offering is a plug, strip bait or tube lure, the appearance of injury and distress spells F-O-O-D. Although some lures are jerked‚ (plugs), chugged (popping plugs), or rapidly retrieved (tube lures), all these simulate distress, and are key to eliciting a hard strike. Keep in mind that ‘cudas are capable of running down even the fastest of baitfish, so keep your lure moving. Ideal tackle for inshore ‘cuda success includes spin and plug outfits ranging from 6 to 12 pound class. It has not been my experience that fly tackle is as effective although some anglers who are masters of the art, do score consistently on trophy size ‘cuda. Spinning reels with fast retrieves and super smooth drags matched with graphite rods, are a good choice. I also prefer monofilament lines, which feature moderate stretch, high impact resistance and definitely high abrasion resistance. Terminal tackle is quite simple. A 6 inch trace of coffee-colored #5 wire as a leader is sufficient. If the water is clear and calm, and the barracuda are small fish of less than ten pounds, you might want to scale it down a bit. A small barrel swivel between the wire and main line will finish things off and also prevent line twists. Flats ‘cuda will take a wide variety of lures and baits. It would be beneficial to have choices ranging from live baits for reluctant fish, to a variety of artificials for use on more active fish that are in an aggressive striking mood.

Let’s focus on natural baits for a moment, both live and dead. We all know there is no surer way to connect with the “cheetah” of the flats than to flip a frisky live bait in front of his nose. The type of live bait is often determined by the size fish you are after and the usual forage in the area you’re fishing. Some live baits have universal appeal as a productive “pitch” bait regardless of location, such as mullet and herring, ‘cuda will pounce on these just about anywhere, anytime. Captain Jon Cooper targets trophy ‘cuda by enticingly slow trolling a medium size live mullet through the structure-oriented areas that he knows harbour whoppers. His baits are fished way back and trolled along rock piles, channel markers, channel edges, sandy runs, jetties and docks that ‘cuda use as ambush points. “I have found that on the outside sandflats, ‘cuda will grab a pilchard, small blue runner or even a big live shrimp. Although, on the inside grass flats of Biscayne Bay, It’s hard to beat a fresh 5 inch mullet strip” says Cooper. Fresh dead bait can be equally as effective and on occasion can also rid you of the time consuming live bait cat & mouse game. The most effective way to fish a mullet strip is to simply hook one end about an inch down with a ;’,,,12/0/0 hook and light wire leader. Cast the bait in front of any sighted ‘cuda and let the bait settle through the water column. Hope the fish nails it on its undulating drop and if it doesn’t, take another cast. After the strip settles down to the fish’s level, slowly twitch the strip. If the fish only tracks and follows the strip, speed up your retrieve a little. ‘Cuda will often seize the mullet strip crosswise in their ferocious jaws. I always give them a tiny bit more time to turn away before striking back. A second option with fresh strips is to blind cast at likely looking structure. Potholes, dock pilings, sandy strips, and channel markers are all common hideouts and will all hold fish. For artificials, the most potent lures resemble distressed needlefish and finger mullet. Tube lures, which are extremely popular can be used anywhere inshore and come in a variety of colors. Cuda will hit them with explosive strikes while the lure is skidded across the surface or jigged just below the surface. The tube lures squiggly action, evidently, is too good to turn away. It is amazing how easily the lure can be mistaken for a live needlefish. Top water plugs also work wonders on both sand and grassflats with ‘cudas of all sizes. Work the plug with an erratic retrieve emulating an injured baitfish struggling on the surface, something all ‘cuda find irresistible.Regarding specific habits, ‘cuda tend to cluster in groups. They are not a true schooling fish in the sense that the group acts with the coordinated predatory behavior that jack crevalles do. They are found in groups because they are individually drawn to the same areas that provide feeding opportunities — like rockpiles, pilings, drop-offs and other ambush points. You will also learn that certain inshore flats and channels hold more ‘cuda than others for reasons that we cannot visually determine. Keep a written log and remember these spots.Some anglers eat inside grassflats ‘cuda, while avoiding fish that are larger and frequenting the ocean side. This is an individual choice, but the risk of ciguatera is great enough to really encourage anglers to release these toothy gladiators back to their watery world. Barracuda are definitely worth more as a hard fighting high flying game fish than on the dinner table.

DID YOU KNOW.......Ciguatera — also known as ‘Fish Poisoning’ is a form of food poisoning caused by the consumption of subtropical and tropical marine finfish which have accumulated naturally occurring toxins through their diet. The toxins are known to originate from several dinoflagellate (algae) species that are common to ciguatera endemic regions in the lower latitudes. One marine finfish most commonly implicated in ciguatera fish poisoning is the barracuda. The occurrence of toxic fish is sporadic, and not all fish of a given species or from a given locality will be toxic.source:

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

As Posted on the Internet

Abaco Bones


As I was wading in crystal-clear water about six inches deep, my guide Ricardo Burrows, suddenly whispered, “stop” and pointed to a disturbance on the flat about a hundred yards down tide. “Be still and quiet, they’re coming our way.” By the time “they” got within a hundred feet of us, I beheld something I’d never seen before: a school of tailing bonefish so immense they could have covered an entire tennis court. The multitude of flashing tails simply mesmerized me. I could literally feel my heart pounding out of my chest with excitement.Ricardo coached me. “Make your presentation well in front of the pack and when they close in start your retrieve with gentle bumps”. I did just that — and the hookup was instantaneous. The silvery tennis court exploded into a white froth as hundreds of bonefish spooked in all directions. After a crisp, yet exciting battle, we released a healthy five lb. bone back into the shallow water to resume his cautious, grazing life.

This was typical Abacos bonefishing. From Key Biscayne to Key West, south Florida flats anglers are accustomed to pursuing Florida’s gray ghost by poling after them in specially designed shallow draft skiffs. Florida bonefish are often seen mudding, cruising and tailing and usually run in size from 4 to 14 lbs. Targeting bones in the Bahamas is slightly different in a number of ways and Florida anglers should be aware of what to expect when heading over. I happen to have been fishing off Sandy Point in Abaco Island, which is fairly typical of Bahamas bonefishing on the “outside flats”.

Here are a few pointers that will hopefully help you in your pursuit of Bahamas bonefish.Pointers for Bahamas BonefishGenerally, Bahamian bones range in size from 2 - 5 lbs., although there are larger fish present on the islands that front oceanic depths. As a rule, plan to scale down your tackle, and go a bit lighter here. 6 lb. spinning outfits, and six-weight fly rods will provide excellent battles and more enjoyment with these abundant smaller fish.The size of bonefish schools here can range into the hundreds of fish, something south Florida anglers don’t commonly see. These huge schools are often encountered tailing or mudding during lower tidal stages. If you catch the right season, you might find bonefish spawning on the surface in the thousands! In Abaco, the guides call this “dancing”. In Eleuthera, they call it “bibbling.” Whatever name it’s called, these massive groups of bonefish provide new meaning to the word “action”.Bahamas bonefish will head deep into any available mangrove “forests” to feed during the rising tide. Therefore, a falling tide is often better in these kinds of areas, as the fish will be coming heading back out of the roots to continue their search for crustaceans. It’s common to see mudding schools of bonefish working the deeper drop-offs adjacent to the flats and inevitably, these fish will be accompanied by marauding blacktip sharks.What makes Bahamian bonefish muds so different than typical keys muds, is their size, which can often cover an entire acre. Although you may not see individual fish to cast to, fish these muds for a while and you will probably be surprised with some quick, delightful action.

Any kind of light tackle setup will work quite well here.The ultra shallow flats in the Bahamas can run for immense distances, unlike the typical sloping flats of the Keys. This means you can often leave your boat anchored on the edge and wade the sandy shallows for miles. Wading the flats for bonefish is extrememly common in the Bahamas. Although, if you do plan on leaving your boat for long periods of time, remember to take your water bottle. There is an abundance of bonus fish on the Bahamian flats as well. If you like, you can rig up a short wire trace and cast to countless barracuda and sharks as the tide rises on the outside flats. You may also get a shot at a permit during the higher tidal phases or along the channel edges.

The day before my charter with Ricardo Burrows, I waded out to the channel in front of Rickmon’s Lodge to play for a while. With my 12 lb. plug rod and a 1/2 oz. white bucktail, my second presentation was smashed in the channel depths. After a fifteen minute see-saw fight, I bested a 12 lb. mutton snapper. This gave the lodge cook, Mari, great delight!

Planning a trip to the Bahamas FlatsGenerally, it’s better to use an outfitter or travel agent to book your trip. Remember, they obligate themselves to your trip, and are extremely concerned about your having a great experience. Firms like Angling Destinations (Scott or Brad at 1-800-211-8530 ) specialize in representing your interests with the myriad numbers of Bahama bonefish clubs. They choose to deal with only the lodges that show the best performance, like Rickmons Lodge in Sandy Point.Plan on bringing ALL the possible tackle you’ll need (rods, reels, line, lures, etc.). Bahamas bonefish lodges and/or individual guides generally carry little, if any tackle. If flying, back up your tackle with your carry-on luggage, in case your rod tubes or other luggage is lost or damaged in transit. Better safe than sorry should be your watchwords.Bring everything you can imagine you might need. Photo documented ID’s like drivers license and passport are the optimal rule. Think about taking all your necessary medications, including first aid items. Be sure to include these in your carry-on if flying.Be flexible. Life in the Bahamas moves at a more relaxed pace, and Bahamians live their life this way. Sometimes your flight inquiry might be met with a smiling shrug, surely not the American way! However, you are encountering a way of life where things do get done satisfactorily, maybe not at your accustomed pace, but perhaps at a healthier, wiser one.As the sun set on an excellent day of bonefishing, Ricardo and I waded back to his skiff. As I turned backwards to sit up on his gunnel, I noticed a bonefish tail pop up fifty feet away. It slowly waved back and forth, beckoning, as if to say, “try to get me tomorrow — I’ll be waiting.

”Flies for Bonefish-Clouser Minnow #4, #6, in tan-white, chartreuse-white-Crazy Charlie #4, #6 in tan, white or pink-Mini-Puff #4, #6 in pink, orange or tan-Bonefish Special #4, #6-Gotcha #4, #6-Blind Gotcha #4, #6Flies for Permit-Del’s Merkin Crab #1, #2-The McCrab #1, #2Artificial LuresPhillips Wiggle Jigs (in tan, white or pink)Size 1/0 hooksGreen tube lures for barracuda5-inch Yozuri or Rapala plugs for barracuda1/4 to 1/2 oz. white and mylar bucktailsOther Important Fishing GearPolarized sunglasses with side shields in amber or brownLeatherman tool/knifeLine nipperHemostat/pliersChest pack/ Fanny pack with water bottleHook fileLine cleaner/dressingReel LubeBic LighterSpinning gear — 7-8 foot rod with 6 or 8 lb. lineBonefish flyrod — 9-10 foot rod; 8-wt. linePermit flyrod — 9-10 foot rod; 9-wt. line

Hot Locations aroundSandy Point, AbacoThe flats around Sandy Point abound with bonefish. If you follow the road to Rickmons Lodge, you can see a large sandbar exposed to your right as you gaze northward. On either side of the low tide, the bonefish that gather here only a hundred yards from the lodge, can number in the hundreds. As the tide gets higher, focus on the island 100 yards northeast of the sandbar, as the bonefish feed right into the black mangroves, along with loads of blacktip sharks. An excellent foul-weather hotspot is the mangroves past the boatyard to the right of the lodge. Here the bonefish spill out of the mangroves as the tide drops. Good luck, and have a great trip.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Urban Anglers:Per Chance, to Fish!

Malls are mauled by millions, urged on by minions of mercantile minds with manufactured mirth that drugs out leveraged pocketbooks owned by minds that really believe that family closeness only congeals with bought expressions called gifts. The police were actually called out into the street to direct the vehicular chaos swarming around and into the mall of North Dade County, all of them- the "shoppers"- obviously oblivious to the loss of "one-stop" shopping time savings grotesquely offset by the hours of searching, then fighting for a place to park, and the swarms around the goods and cash registers. The last time the Men in Blue were on the roads was for Wilma. They were there to maintain order-is this a holiday? Remember the word root- holy day.

With all this swirl about, pensive anglers search out solitude and avoid marinas glutted by first-time boaters that jack-knife their trailers into other rigs with unpracticed launches. A cold front eases into South Florida through foggy skies on a southwest wind. Early mornings and sunset beckon when the crowds thin and the fish take a peek and peck a minnow meal in backbay canals. This is the time to take a breath, be alone, center yourself, and pare down your tackle in the cooled- down, boat-beaten waters of Urbania. Slower retrieves, lighter longer leaders, smaller lure and flies more match the mood of our fish. The mainland inshore Florida angler has this task at hand, one that is spared the offshore sporties now harvesting sailfish driven nuts by baitfish buffets amidst bright blue front-tossed waves.

So, that's it here in "dynamic" South Florida, but there's also dreams of distant shores where a "car" is a rarity, there are no malls, where you know your neighbor, you understand each other, where the repugnant backwindow gangsta decals don't exist nor do their foul boom-boxing lowriders-places where there's maybe just one road that leads through trees after trees after trees until it ends on a quiet beachfront where it's you, and you alone..maybe an occasional figure smiling a year-round smile undisfigured by pressured life eases by, picking up a shell here and there. A hookup now is less the goal, when your efforts reassert and capture moments of purity and pensiveness that reveal something true anglers already know... that fishing has nothing whatsoever to do with fish.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Posted Destination Feature-Key Island Estate

A Key to Paradise

As Jim Kanzler snaked his shallow water skiff through the mangroves to the Isles of Capri where my car waited, the images of the action, the Estate, and the surroundings stayed strong and colorful in my mind. That was a good sign, because it signaled that my experience would become a cherished memory.Although I caught countless numbers of ladyfish, jack crevalles, and jumbo mangrove snappers, it was the snook that finned out in the front stages of my mind. I couldn’t possibly remember each and every one of the countless strikes and pulled hooks I had with the line sided bad boys. However, I did succeed in keeping a catch & release tally, which numbered thirty-six fish to twenty pounds! As I said, an incredible two days of snook fishing.

Key Island Estate is the brilliant idea of owners Stacey and Jim Kanzler. They have opened up their beautiful yet secluded Key Island home to groups yearning for an eco-island experience. This fortunately includes groups of anglers, as well as their non-angling friends and family. The fishery at Key Island Estate is absolutely a round-the-clock opportunity, and consists of three types of habitats and techniques.Because Key Island Estate lies on basically uninhabited Key Island you have about eight miles of pristine Gulf of Mexico surf all to yourself. In the calm summer weather, you’ll find countless numbers of snook swimming parallel to the beach only a few feet from the water’s edge. You will be most effective if you pretend that you are casting to spooky bonefish, because that’s exactly how these snook behave.In early morning’s sunrise, and in full daylight, casting to these snook is a total sight-fishing experience. It’s best if you stay low and well back on the beach, so these keen eyed fish do not see your silhouette or movement. Cast your small bucktail or fly well in front of the cruising snook: when the fish is about a yard away, retrieve it in the darting motions of the ever-present minnow schools.The low light times of early dawn and late dusk present different conditions and opportunities for casting the Gulf beaches. It will be harder for you to see the fish, and conversely, for them to see you. You’ll be casting to the boiling strikes in the minnow schools or just plain blind casting. Either way, in the muted light you’ll find that the snook strike more aggressively.Another bonus of fishing at these times is that large schools of jack crevalles invade the surf’s edge to feed on the same vast minnow schools. These predators create large areas of frothy action as they feed almost right onto the beach: you certainly won’t miss them! Try slowing down your retrieve through the melee, and you may even hook up with one of the fat mangrove snapper that lie in wait on the beach bottom for the silvery falling food.The beaches of Key Island Estate can therefore offer you — as it did for me — opportunities where you can cast to individual cruising fish or car-sized patches of crashing jacks, ladyfish, snapper and mackerel. Tough work, but I guess someone’s got to do it!

The beauty of this destination is that while it is in close proximity to the beautiful cities of Marco Island (to the south) and Naples (to the north), it lies in the heart of Rookery Bay Sanctuary. As a visiting angler to Key Island Estate, to you this means mangroves and lots of them and of course along with the mangroves come the big three that live there: snook, redfish, and tarpon.The mangrove fishery at this destination is done by guided skiffs. The habitat that will be covered is huge: anywhere from Rookery Bay all the way down to the Ten Thousand Islands. Light tackle fishing in mangrove country is largely a daytime proposition. It is also more of a year-round enterprise because of the shelter from harsh weather that the mangroves provide.Mangrove fishing is a target-casting undertaking, and the targets generally involve key points of structure and dark pockets right hidden under the mangrove shadows. This is a fishery where flies and artificial lures are a true delight, as an accurate cast to any likely-looking spot could mean a hookup with any of the aforementioned species.On occasion, guides will net a live-well full of pilchards to utilize as hors d’ oeuvres. They do this by tossing a handful of stunned “livies” into the mangrove roots. The resulting pops will be a pretty sure sign that yourfuture snook or redfish is turning on, and has a date with destiny on the end of your line. When the lure fishing slows down a bit, sometimes the guide will bait up a spinner with one of the live baits for you. Despite the tackle I might be using, I always graciously accept this offer since I know a strike is pretty much on its way. In making arrangements to visit this destination, owners Jim and Stacey Kanzler were eager to point out, “there are a lot of snook around the docks at night”, but I was no where near prepared for what lay in store for me.

The idea of snook aplenty haunted me on my drive from Miami to the Isles of Capri, which is just north of Marco Island. Upon my arrival, a huge thunderstorm was moving westward over the area. It glared down hard in its grayish black rolling fullness. Occasionally, it would throw down a startling lightning bolt right into the bay just a few miles upwind of me. As I finally approached the parking area, a figure suddenly appeared at my side. It was Randy, one of the crew members from Key Island Estate. He graciously greeted me, looked upward with a big smile and said, “we can probably make it if we quickly transfer your things.” We quickly made a rapid transfer of rods and baggage into the skiff and he fired up the engine. He looked at the sky again, and asked me which way I’d prefer the ride to the Island: the fastest or the more scenic, where we might get in a cast or two. I could swear I heard the tip of my graphite plug rod humming, so I quickly chose the former.In less than fifteen minutes, we were docking at the front door of the estate, a magnificent three story home finished in wood and majestic in scope. That was when the skies opened up. We’d arrived not a minute too soon. Despite the ensuing downpour, images of snook among the dock pilings swam circles in my mind.

After introductions, a tour, and a marvelous meal cooked by the Kanzlers’, I noticed it was quite dark outside: Fortunately not the bad, storm-darkness, but the sweet darkness of nightfall. Jim’s offer to grab some tackle and investigate their now well-lit dock was like the first kiss with a girl you had a crush on. As we walked down the outside stairs, the after-rain freshness of the vegetation enveloped us, accompanied by the music of a million crickets on this secluded magic island. Far off in the Gulf, a flash of lightning briefly lit our path to the docks.It seemed far too long before our feet touched the dock’s first plank. Jim stopped our stride with an outstretched arm, and then pointed to an area under the dock lights. By the time he said, “look”, I’d already spotted one of the most magnificent sights I have ever seen. There were probably a hundred snook feeding into the current, hitting anything that vaguely resembled food. As I eased forward towards them, the aggressiveness of their popping strikes filled me with anticipation.It was a good thing I’d brought two fully-rigged plug outfits, because my level of agitation precluded the fine finger movements of tackle rigging. I trusted that my lures, a SPRO white bucktail and a D.O.A. small, silver-sided Terroreyz would do their job. At the most, all I could do was walk quickly to the up-tide side of the dock, and make a simple cast over the horde of fish. The strike was immediate, and a healthy snook of about ten pounds thrashed up out of the water. It tail walked over part of the school, temporarily scattering them. I used maximum pressure with my twelve pound line, and had my first fish caught & released within 60 seconds.I gave the school time to settle down and pull together. I picked up the other plug rod and cast a bit farther away on the outskirts of the light. Two slow pulls were quickly followed by a vicious strike. I struck back to get a good hook set, and an even larger snook of about fifteen pounds came thrashing to the surface. My tactic of maximum pressure and “quick-stroke” rod pumps bested the fish in about the same time. I also learned that if I “rested” the school for a half hour, almost every cast would get an instant strike.Another nightly thrill you can almost count on when fishing the docks of the Estate are the large tarpon feeding in the middle of the channel. Any and every passing mullet school literally gets “crashed” by these silvery giants with huge explosions. It sounds like a compact car dropping from a high diving board into the inky waters of the night.As the sun came up the following morning and the “dock snook” dropped off into the center of the channel, all I could think of was running across the Estate to fish for the bonefish style snook in the surf. And so, the fishing and the catching went on and on ....

Any discussion of Key Island Estate would be incomplete without mention of the facilities many features and amenities. The house itself is built with wood and glass and the interior is topped off with the finest Caribbean art. Two uniquely cozy air conditioned “bed and bath” satellite buildings are attached by walkway spokes at opposite ends of the structure.Amenities inside include hammocks, viewing benches for sunsets, outside sun decks, a classic pool table, and a crisp ping-pong table. To top off your excellent meals, you’ll be eating either at the large tiled kitchen bar or at one of the spacious dining tables. Another corner of the central living space boasts an entertainment center with an oversized satellite television.It is important to repeat that the Estate is on secluded acreage between two pristine bodies of water. Bird life abounds: gulls, gannets, ospreys, and pelicans are numerous visitors and residents at the Estate. Jim Kanzler has also seen wild boars, bobcats, lizards, deer and tortoises on the property. Of course, Key Island also features the unforgettable summer nights of watching turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.

The best way to understand the Key Island Estate experience is through its owners, Jimmy and Stacey Kanzler. As a couple and as parents of two children, they exude incredible friendliness, a sense of service, and generosity of spirit.During the span of a marriage that started in their teens, each partner has achieved considerable success. Jimmy got his first dump truck at the age of 15 and now runs a large construction and earth-moving company. Stacey is the inventor of a sand bagging machine that is used world-wide to save lives and property in the event of floods.Jimmy feels that owning Key Island Estate makes him “the luckiest man in the world”. He also feels that the Estate is a place to get away from his busy schedule. In contrast, Stacey sees the estate as a “connection to her soul”. Stacey is the heart of Key Island Estate, and is the steward of a home that is one of the most beautiful lodges around. She feels the lodge can handle up to 14 guests at a time quite nicely. She is also proud that the Estate is exquisitely sandwiched by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and lush mangrove back country channel on the other. To sum it all up, Key Island Estate is truly heaven on earth!If you go...

Getting ThereAccess to the island is by boat only. Water taxi service for guests of Key Island Estate is by appointment. The closest airport is Naples, Florida, with charter jet capabilities. The primary airport is Southwest Florida International Airport, approximately 45 minutes north in Fort Myers. Go south on I-75, take Exit 101 (Marco Island, CR 951), just north of the Alligator Alley tollbooth. Go south on 951 for about 7 miles, crossing U.S. 41, and continue another 6 miles to Isles of Capri Road. Turn right, go three miles to Pelican Bend Marina. Fishing Guides and suppliesFor offshore fishing, J.R. Rosetti can take up to six fishermen aboard KA-DE 11. Call 239-250-2928. For backwater fishing, contact Jeff Smith, 239-289-2728. Others available on request. Some fishing equipment is available on site. Bait, lures and other supplies are available at Pelican Bend Marina or by advance arrangement. Other AdventuresKey Island Estate provides a list of local boat rentals, eco-tours, canoeing, kayaking, parasailing and other watersport services, which can be booked in advance or upon arrival. Chef ServicesKey Island Estate’s own private chef, Reinhard Jacob, is available for full-time or individual meal catering. Advance arrangements can be made at the time of reservation or direct with Jamie & Jacob Catering, 239-246-8967. Guests may bring their own grocery supplies or provide an advance shopping list so the pantry and refrigerators will be stocked upon arrival. Chef and shopping services are priced separately. Inquiries and ReservationsCall 800-770-SAND or visit

Posted Destination Feature- Sanibel island

Tips and Tales
Follow the West Wind
Sun-drenched days, tropical breezes, incomparable Gulf sunsets and non-stop drag screaming action, all in an unforgettable, beautiful setting!The Gulf surf behind the West Wind Inn was a sight to behold. Backlit by a yellow and orange sunset, countless schools of shimmering glass minnows worked their way along Sanibel’s pristine beach. Every few seconds, their rain shower sounds were shattered by the suction cup strikes of hungry snook that seemed to be everywhere! All this action was literally occurring in knee-deep water right at our feet! My fishing partner, Jim Porter, smirked as a lurking snook nearly collided with his leg. Off to my right, another snook went airborne after a mouthful of silvery bait.My only dilemma in the darkening kaleidoscope was simply where to cast. A throw parallel to the beach might score one of the remaining snook that still had an appetite, but the odds favored casting to the hundreds of exploding jacks, ladyfish and sea trout a mere forty feet from shore. I’d chosen my fishing tackle based on prior experiences fishing these fantastic waters. In the snag-free conditions of the open surf, the ultra-light six pound spinning outfit was ideal. My terminal gear consisted of a short double line to a thirty pound fluorocarbon leader, topped off with a quarter ounce white Spro bucktail jig.It was simple: one quick flick into the thrashing melee and a hookup was immediate. On some of my casts, I would jump a ladyfish, only to have the bait grabbed by a nearby jack or trout just seconds later. Jim and I fished this frenzy until the painted sky darkened and we could no longer see our rod tips. It’s important to note that in order to protect egg-laying turtles and their hatchlings, darkness is a legal mandate along many Gulf coast beaches. It was now pitch black as Jim and I made our way back over the sand dunes to the Inn. The day had come full circle, since earlier that day with rods in hand we had walked to the beach to greet the dawn. On only his second cast that morning, Jim hooked, landed, photographed and released a beautiful snook in the high teens. The great thing was that this first day of our short trip was only a prelude to the upcoming full day on the water fishing with native Sanibel guide, Captain Mike Smith. The West Wind Inn makes Mike their first choice when they want a day of action for their guests.It’s rare for a family resort destination to not only offer first class fishing right at its back door, but also provide shelling, beach walks, swimming, biking, as well as proximity to some of Florida’s finest restaurants, art galleries, and wildlife preserves. You simply could not find this incredible mix in Key West, Cancun, Freeport, Cozumel, or even San Juan. Sanibel and Captiva Islands stand alone in offering this unique blend of amenities for a resort destination, and the West Wind Inn is in the epicenter of it all on Sanibel’s West Gulf Drive. The West Wind Inn had it all: a large pool with adjoining bar for snacks and drinks, a great restaurant, rental bikes, beach lounges, spectacular gardens, and an excellent variety of accommodations. The first time I visited the West Wind Inn, I knew I was in for something special as they handed me a shell guide and collection bag upon my arrival!

BEGINNING THE SECOND DAY-It was a brief but highly effective dawn beach patrol that resulted in a few snook and sea trout. The warmth of the rising sun at our backs reminded us that we had to leave the Inn at 7:15 sharp to meet Captain Mike at the Punta Rassa boat ramp just beyond the Sanibel Causeway toll booth. As we drove up, we saw Captain Mike’s 21’ Lake and Bay skiff right away: it appeared to be gleaming in anticipation as it lay alongside the dock. As we climbed aboard, I inquired about his live bait forays in the predawn hours. Mike smiled as he opened two huge livewells: both were chock full of threadfin herring and pilchards, or whitebait as they refer to them locally.As we settled aboard and stowed our gear, Mike laid out his game plans for the day. Plan #1 would be to run 100 to 200 yards off the Gulf beaches in search of feeding fish. Mike said recent reports indicated huge schools of glass minnows were being ravaged by tarpon and mackerel in the early morning hours. Plan #2 would kick in as the sun climbed higher and the day warmed up. We’d be heading to the inside waters behind Sanibel to fish the ‘Ding’ for snook and redfish. Mike fired up his Yamaha 225 and idled towards the channel which led to open water. Once in the clear, he pushed down the throttle to what felt like warp speed and in mere moments we rounded the bend near Sanibel Lighthouse into the open Gulf.It wasn’t long before we spotted the unmistakable site of skyrocketing Spanish mackerel and free-jumping tarpon out in the distance. I could feel my heart pound with excitement. Mike idled over to the largest feeding frenzy and cut his motor about fifty yards away. Making his way to the bow, he lowered his electric motor into the water. Its strong silent pull added to our excitement as we crept towards the action in ‘stealth mode.’As we approached casting distance, Mike pulled two rods from the upright holders on the console. They were well equipped spinning outfits spooled with what I like to call ‘8/30’ Power Pro, which meant that we’d have the long casts afforded by the thin 8 pound diameter, but the fighting strength of 30 pound mono. PowerPro is an ideal choice for tarpon because of the line’s no-stretch properties which allow solid hook-sets. The terminal end consisted of a double line, 30 pound fluorocarbon leader and a 3/0 Gamakatsu hook.Mike told us that we’d bait up with the threadfins, as they were a perfect choice: too big for the Spanish mackerel, but candy for the tarpon. I lowered my lively bait into the water just beneath me, thinking Mike was going to get us even closer with the electric motor. Seconds later a tarpon exploded on my bait right at my feet, startling me and drenching me with spray. I gave the fish a few second count and struck hard….once, twice, three times. Up came the silver giant, flashing brilliantly in the morning sun. The fish greyhounded across the green Gulf for more than thirty feet before plunging back into the water with a furious splash. The battle then settled into a predictable pattern: maximum pressure when the fish rolled or wallowed and a quick bow when the fish jumped or bolted. Fifteen minutes later the silvery giant was alongside the boat, ready for release. I estimated its weight at about sixty pounds. Not a bad way to start any day! After a brief victory celebration, we noticed the bait schools were now a hundred yards west, fleeing their predators. Off in pursuit of the action we went. Within five minutes we were back on top of the commotion. Jim and I cast our threadfins and were hooked up within seconds. It was a brief double-header with one fish jumping off and the other chafing through the leader. We took a breather and rechecked a thunderhead that had been heading our way. Playing it safe, Mike recommended we speed over to Ft. Myers Beach. Topping off at close to 50 mph, his rig did an excellent job of keeping us out of harm’s way. As we sat just offshore of a sunny beach, we watched the ferocious thunderstorm cross Sanibel Island. The drenching rain showers took an hour to pass. When we finally returned, the minnow schools were long gone. Mike suggested that the storm may have driven the bait into the surf, but the falling tide would put the action out of our reach. He felt the time was right to run behind Sanibel and explore the Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve.

INTO THE DING-Captain Mike cranked up the engine and off we flew. Mike was happy that we were fishing on the new moon. Just like the full moon, the spring tide effect would create tidal levels and current velocities that were stronger than average. Mike felt that both the snook and redfish were more active during these periods. Nobody knows the Ding better than Captain Mike, who has fished the area for the last twenty years. We entered one of the small entrances to this maze-like jungle. Since the tide was falling, Mike raised his engine on its jack-plate and idled in for the remaining half mile.Captain Mike’s tactics in the Ding were fascinating. He would only use his bow-mounted electric motor to approach his honey holes hiding in the cracks and crevices of the countless creeks, bays, and islands. Once the boat was about forty feet from a favorite spot, he’d stake it out to keep the skiff stationary. Now in position, he would net a few frisky pilchards from his livewell and toss them high up into the mangrove treetops. Moments later pilchards would rain down on the snook hiding in the shadows, and then all hell would break loose! Mike smiled at all the pops and calmly said, “looks like they’re really hungry today.” As a few silvery survivors raced out of the entangled roots to hide in the skiff’s shadow, Mike recommended I pull one of the spinning outfits out of the rod holders.The equipment was well thought out: stiff long graphite rods with fast retrieve spinners.Each filled to the brim with braided line to maximize two tackle qualities: sensitivity and low stretch, both translating into a better feel and more fish-pulling power. He baited my 1/0 hook which was tied to a two foot length of fluorocarbon leader. Recommending I toss the bait into one of the shadowy mangrove pockets, I made a good cast and the strike was instantaneous! The snook and I did a seesaw battle, but good technique and quality tackle had him boat-side in just minutes. We admired the roughly six pound fish for a moment and then released it unharmed.Suffice it to say that every stop we made, we hooked nice snook, redfish, or jack crevalle. The technique was the same: accurate casts into shadowy pockets and a keep-him-coming fighting technique. Mike’s spots were as endless as his knowledge of the Ding and by midday, we were exhausted. It was time for a break. As we idled back out of the preserve, Captain Mike encouraged me to return when the fishing really turned on! I laughed and responded that I was thinking the same thing.Mike again mentioned the glass minnow schools might be right in the wash behind the West Wind Inn, and that dusk was a great time to fish the surf. I told him he could count on Jim and I being there, but little did I know what lay in store for us……

WHEN YOU GO-Get off I-75 at exit 131 onto Daniels Road. Follow this west past U.S. 41 until you reach Summerlin Road. Turn left on Summerlin and follow it right to the Sanibel Causeway toll plaza. When you get to the Island, turn right at Periwinkle Way. Follow Periwinkle for 2.6 miles to Tarpon Bay Road and make a left. Follow Tarpon Bay to the stop sign for West Gulf Drive and make a right turn. The West Wind Inn will be 2 miles ahead on your left. You can’t miss it. West Wind Innwww.WestWindInn.com1-800-824-04761-239-472-1541Captain Mike Smith1-239-770-68791-239-573-FISH

Friday, December 23, 2005

Terra Nova?

Sure, we can grouse about about the old days, but let's stop crowing and start warbling when you stop to consider the Marathon Bonefish Tournament released over 200 fish in a few days and as this is written, "rafts" of baitfish swim the Atlantic-side reefs of the Florida Keys. The buzz is that the source of this bounty was some obscure and unknown pinwheel weather system called Wilma-some surmise the bait got shoved through the Keys from the Gulf to Atlantic like a Manhattan subway charge. The food chain being what it is whether it's corporate America or the reef drop from Key Largo to Key West, baitfish pull in and concentrate sails, blackfins, and kings. And this, of course, pulls in anglers- the Crown of Creation. So, it does seem like biomass, fish stocks, and habitat can flex a little bit-the last, the least.

Oh yes, I'm happy to report that tarpon fishing is now a year-long, any-weather fishery in Biscayne Bay: you just need to know where to go.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Spindlebeak Storm Bounty?

FLORIDA KEYS SKIPPERS REPORTING INCREDIBLE SAILFISH ACTIONISLAMORADA, Florida Keys - By noon Thursday (Dec. 22), Captain Alex Adler, skipper of the Kalex, had already caught and released seven sailfish off Islamorada in the Florida Keys."It's the best sustained sailfish bite in the history of the Keys," said Adler, who is not known for fish tales or exaggerations.Two days earlier, on Tuesday, Adler's anglers released 20 sails. "First the ballyhoo were matted like I've never seen since the 1970s, then these baby sardines came out of the Gulf (of Mexico)," said the 48-year-old Adler, who has been in the sportfishing business since he was 18.Speculation is that Hurricane Wilma's jaunt through the Gulf of Mexico in late October might have pushed massive populations of juvenile sardines into the Gulf Stream and around the Florida peninsula.The Keys are the primary beneficiary."It's an extraordinary thing," said Captain Paul Ross, skipper of Relentless. "There are hundreds of square miles of sardines out there from Key West to Ocean Reef."Ross said his anglers have been releasing seven to 10 sailfish every day. "They've had size too," he added. "We're getting 50- to 70-pound fish, even in close [to the reef edge]."Adler said everyone has been taking advantage of the hot sailfish bite."From Keys bridges, motorists can see backcountry skiffs (boats less than 18 feet) along the outer reef edges because the water has been so calm," Adler said. "Whatever it takes to get out there, people are doing it."In Florida Bay, Spanish mackerel have been plentiful with many large fish being caught.In the Lower Keys and Key West, the massive amounts of bait have created one of the best blackfin tuna and kingfish bites in years."There are acres of blackfin tuna out there coming in on a tremendous amount of bait," said Captain Mike Weinhofer of Compass Rose charters in Key West. "The kingfishing has been phenomenal too."Perhaps the best news is that the captains agreed the bait is here to stay for a long time and the fishing should remain very strong."It's a phenomenon," said Adler.More details on the Florida Keys are available at or by calling 1-800-FLA-KEYS (800-352-5397).###FOR MEDIA INFORMATION ONLY: Contact: Andy Newman/Carol Shaughnessy 1-800-ASK-KEYS (800-275-5397) or (305)

Looking Forward...Looking Back

As the water temps drop in the midst of rising holiday freneticism, shallow waters are thinning a bit of gamesters-though far from entirely. Right now, I'm caught up with the allure of distant shores on the other side of the new year, when the days get longer and warmer and travel is more of a 360 for me. Two of the first-date thrills are focused on British Columbia for 50 pound chinook and bone batallions on the salinas of Long Island, Bahamas. The future can be the place of possiblility, dreams and excitements, yet the reveries of Deep Past recollected, a bank account and repository of accomplishments and experiences irrevocably booked in. Remembrances of things past a bittersweet sense of things gone, sometimes longed-for, and maybe relished. Chad and Jeremy said a bit: "When the rain beats against my window pane, I'll think of summer days again, and dream of you."....Wow!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Did you ever say "go", but wanted to stay?...

Jack after jack after jack in the cold front-cooled waters of South Bay pounced on my Spro bucktail tipped with shrimp. The BassPro Inshore Extreme baitcasting outfit performed well as I released over 100 fish. Companion Jim Porter was told the cooler, flatter, dirtier water on the outside of Key Biscayne would have less bonefish than before- we gave it a try under the last day of the full moon... and found much less than before, as in zero. Jacks can be a day- saver, especially when the search time is limited on half-day trips. It's all relative: Jim wanted a bonefish, but i could not have been happier on constant hookups on my trusty little plug rod.

Monday, December 12, 2005

One Step at a Time!

A tough season for some particularly from Naples to Key West including Wilma's cross-Florida swath south of the Big O. Amazing how the latest news grab makes us forget and deny. There are still people mourning and looking at shattered lives and homes. This season should focus on support and healing. There are 19 destinations I know still cleaning up the storm's decimation..putting on a happy face, but still hurting.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Good Day, Sunshine!

Clear skies and a spring tide brought some great conditions to the flats and channels of Biscayne Bay. Captain Joe Gonzalez had an excellent day with 7 bonefish in deeper South Bay- he caught the fish on fly and bait. With less time and a passion for diving birds, I stayed further north and tallied 40 jacks, and plenty of blue runners, yellow jacks, as well as pompano and bonefish. The secret when you are plug casting jigs tipped with shrimp is let the presentation drop actionless to the channel floor and bottom bounce- bones and pomps love it. A faster retrieve is sure to attract the jack family...the choice is yours: a bent rod beneath sunny skies are good days!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Terrific Tarpon Times and.....

It's almost December and we've had two cold fronts: one following Hurricane Wilma and one last week. If recollection of years past (very past!) serves correct, it was colder earlier in the year. There were more fronts by now, and they would be colder fronts. The World Series in the sixties meant sustained cold weather as well as catching all the bluefish, mackerel, and pompano you wanted at the Sunny Isles Fishing Pier-people literally left with orange sacks and wheelbarrows full. These times coincided with the British Invasion by the Beatles, and the biggest scandal was a high school pregnancy. The aforementioned gamesters never make it this far south and this shallow anymore. Right now, there are some macks in forty feet of water off Miami, but Jupiter seems to be the stopping point for the really large schools.

What species survive may have climactic implications. The ladyfish-filled waters of North Biscayne Bay have passed into history and now hold year-round tarpon. No ones complaining, but it might suggest that such a presence of the tropically-originating tarpon may show a northward push of a warm water fish in a warmer water world. To wit, I went " five for five" on a school of backbay rolling fish-they ranged in size from ten to fifty pounds. These fish seem to never leave Miami anymore. They just go a bit inland in the presence of a cold front.. they make terrific tarpon times.

Don't want to wax morbid or selfish, but I hope the sick birds of Asia stay put and give Floridians a rest from catastrophe. We humans make hurricane preparations, but how do you position yourself for a mutating virus you cannot even see? It all boils down to the job a writer has for not simply writing soothing ink, but to find some distant, deep discomfort and drain it into daylight, despite the sight of it.

And, heck, the de facto-quarantined status of distant tropical islands with lots of flats are shrinking, with the jetliner-belched numbers of anglers seeking the getaway to places where I've already wished that I got away to. Maybe there's a cozy little place in the center of Abaco where I can hide my skiff and kayak and alternately fish Green Turtle for giant bones one day on the east side, and 'yak the Marls on the west side the next day. No need for a computer... just pencil, paper, and lots of makings for a few Tranquil Turtles on a sunny Bahamian afternoon, far across the Gulf Stream from all those masses and the rise of the concrete cancers- a flats fisherman gone survivalist not just for survival sake, but respite from the "too much" that life along the Gold Coast has often become. I'm also sure that if Saint Peter hears that you did roadwork in Miami, there's a red-hot future in store for you... far, far, below.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Green Turtle Cay Adventure

Despite being caught in what Captain Ricky Sawyer called a "squeeze play" between a stalled front and a north-moving tropical disturbance, I headed for Bluff House and Captain Ricky on Green Turtle Cay off the northeast coast of Abaco, Bahamas. The first day featured winds gusting to 30 mph out of the northeast, yet Ricky "tucked in" inside an ocean passage and within 10 minutes we hooked and released a 7 1/2 pound bonefish. I also caught a huge tailing ocean tally and then a big mutton snapper just off the flats. The evening at Bluff House featured great food and a great view off a cliffside suite on the sea of Abaco and beautiful furnishings ( Their phone is 1-800-745-4911

The second day had the winds dropping off. Ricky took me to a wreck just off the flats for nonstop action on cero mackeral and snappers on ultralight tackle and lures. As the tide starting falling, we shot back to the flats, where I spotted, hooked, and released a 9 1/2 pound bonefish. Green Turtle may have the largest frequency of big bonefish in the entire Bahamas. There's so much more to be said!

I'll be writing of this incredible experience at length, but for now Ricky's contact data are:
phone: 1-242-365-4261


Saturday, November 12, 2005

"Drop Fishing" for Tarpon

We've been here before, but let's remember that when tarpon are off the flats and not migrating, they stage along the bottom. Witness Boca Grande, Government Cut, etc. Their tal-slapping rolls also indicate a rapid return back to the bottom-some call this hard-rolling. When tarpon stay on top, their rolls are less circular and feature a momentary dorsal bulge.

But in any bay situation when tarpon stick to the bottom, be sure to fish your baits ALL THE WAY DOWN. It's a temptation to get those breakaway rubber jigs hopping off the bottom, but tarpon can be brought to the surface by a method of chumming and drop fishing silvery jerk baits along with mullet strips. This is very similar to yellowtail fishing off the Keys. The baits must drop alongside the chum without any line resistance all the way to the bottom. The best way to accomplish this is with 12 pound spinning racked in a oblique rod holder and fished on an open spool from your anchored boat. Pull the line from your rod tip and let it rest in well-piled fashion on the water's surface with just enough length to take it to the bottom. Use a J-Hook and watch for sudden line runoffs, which indicate a strike. Using the drop method for tarpon, I've taken as many as 7 tarpon to 100 pounds on a morning trip. Sometimes the tarpon will rise up to meet the chum, and this is the time to take out your 12 weight fly rod and drop fish a bulky chum fly with all the descending food. I find this method a great way to catch tarpon in those times of years that they are off the flats.


Andros Island

Everything ANDROS

The largest and least-explored island in the Bahamas, Andros offers a wide variety of reel screaming action!Andros is by far the largest island in the Bahamian archipelago. The Island measures over 40 miles from east to west and more than 100 miles from north to south. Glancing at a chart, you will notice that Andros Island is really a collection of many smaller islands. The larger north and south sections are split by three shallow bights that completely bisect the landmass. These bights carve the islands mid section into a jumbled maze of smaller mangrove cays. These cays create one of the best and most extensive shallow water habitats found anywhere in the world. The Islands east side fronts the 6000 foot depths of the tongue of the ocean and along with the three shallow bights, contains some of the most productive flats found anywhere. All of the villages, roads, ports and, not surprisingly, resorts lie on the east shore of Andros. No place in the Bahamas rivals Andros Island regarding its exciting and unique geographic fish-producing characteristics. The Island’s sheer size, shape and extremely intricate configurations create numerous and diverse ecosystems which produce excellent feeding grounds for some of the world’s top game fish: seemingly endless backcountry creeks with hordes of silvery bonefish and permit out to the deep blue seas where tuna and marlin reign supreme, Andros is simply a paradise for all fishermen.

If that’s not enough to get you excited, much of the Island’s perimeter is a maze of serpentine creeks, cuts, channels and small mangrove cays that create one of the most extensive skinny water habitats on planet earth.Flats Fishing In Andros:Andros Island is often considered the epicenter of Bahamas bonefishing and for good reason. Its monumental size yields countless flats that seem to melt into the horizon. There are many seasoned flats fishermen who believe that Andros still has many areas that have yet to see an angler. The outside flats of Andros which feature sand, reef or crunchy bottom, create habitats that attract swarms of hungry bonefish. Then there are the shoreline mangrove forests that are endless feeding fields for the large number of bones which graze in the roots at high tide searching for snails, crabs and other tasty crustaceans. Consistently successful anglers will work the mangrove edges on the ebb tide as countless gray ghosts leave the bush on their way to deeper water. The three huge bights which slice through the center of the Island are in actuality quite complex. Not only do they traverse Andros in a northeast to southwest direction, but they do it in a meandering fashion right in the midst of countless keys, islands, and creeks. This intricate habitat creates the well-known inside flats of Andros. These inside flats often have softer bottom than the outside flats and anglers may need to fish from poled boats, versus wading. Though, the bonefish action here can be just as exciting. It’s nice to remember that you can always find refuge from harsh, windy weather on the inside.Most of Andros’ fishing lodges lie on the Islands east side, and run from north to south along the constructed roads on the Island’s major segments. This geographic position no longer stops the more aggressive and adventurous guides from making the comparatively longer run to the fabled west side of the Island. It’s definitely true that the west side of the Island is less-pressured and often, more productive. Due to the cost of fuel and guide disinclination, most anglers never get to fish the west side. It is there that tarpon are more commonly seen prowling the flats, giving shallow water anglers an additional thrilling bonus on this breathtaking atoll.All of these features make Andros an incredible year round flats fishing destination. Couple that with some of the best guides found anywhere in the Bahamas and you are in for an experience you will soon not forget. As a note, it’s on Andros the famed Crazy Charlie Fly was originally constructed of nothing more than chicken feathers and line!

Reef Fishing In Andros:The eastern side of Andros Island offers long expanses of deep water flats which give way to a marvelous series of patch reefs. These very patch reefs lead to a barrier reef which is overwhelmingly abundant in sea life. The multiple species inhabiting these jagged areas can keep an anglers interest for a lifetime and a day. Surface, mid-water and bottom-dwelling gamesters will constantly provide bent rods and smiling faces.If you concentrate on working the upper layer of the water column over the reefs, you will lose your mind for hours with non stop action from mackerel, barracuda and a variety of jacks. Imagine tossing bucktail or swimming plug over a patch reef knowing for certain that on every single cast one of many different species is going to explode on your presentation. This is the embodiment of excitement for saltwater anglers who enjoy casting with artificials. I recall a recent reef trip I took out of Small Hope Bay. We anchored off one of the patch reefs, as I hooked fish on almost every cast on my trusty ten pound plug rod. As we took a lunch break, I looked astern and saw a school of what looked to be about seventy to a hundred large jacks. I instantly dropped my sandwich and quickly flipped a fifty foot cast right in front of the school. The first sweep of my jig was blasted by the lead fish. I set the hook with vigor as the fish rocketed in the opposite direction. The blistering run demanded the guide weigh anchor and give chase. After a long half hour see-saw battle, my jack began to surface in reaction to the constant pressure. As it popped up, its long silvery black dorsal and tail fins sliced through the surface which clearly indicated I was battling a large permit. I was high with excitement! Constant pressure for a few more minutes yielded a wonderful catch that was tailed at boat side, weighed in at 32 lbs., and quickly released. Pleasant surprises are common when fishing the reefs off Andros.The most popular bottom dwellers that will surely grab your attention and your baits are snapper and grouper. At times, the number of large grouper and snapper inhabiting the waters just east of Andros can be staggering! During the months of February and March, these fish stack up and often finding large influxes of grouper is an easy task. Natives believe these fish move inshore to spawn and know exactly where they are. Speak with the local fishermen, inquire respectfully and I am sure they will be happy to point you in the right direction. I remember a particular Bahamian skiff that pulled up to our fishing lodge one evening. The skiff was literally filled with big groupers from gunwale to gunwale. It was incredible. 30 lb. conventional tackle will conquer plenty grouper for your consumption although you can expect to hook some bruisers that prove to be unstoppable. I have started experimenting with short graphite-glass stand-up rods matched with reels spooled with PowerPro braided super line. I am finding that I can exert a greater amount of pressure against the powerful shoulders of hefty grouper as they head back toward their holes. The added pressure has definitely helped me land a greater number of larger fish.Later in the year, around May, large numbers of muttons also move inshore to spawn. These fish range in size from five to eighteen pounds and can provide outstanding action. The springtime muttons of Andros quickly gobble up ballyhoo, mullet, crabs and most other baits that are commonly used here in South Florida. The sandy runs and potholes between reefs often produce large numbers of muttons and should always be investigated. On occasion, juvenile mutton snapper may make their way inshore to the flats and channels but for consistency with bruisers, head to the reefs! The same thirty lb. class grouper tackle can be used for muttons as well, with the slight modification of a longer, lighter, 10’ forty lb. leader.

Andros’ Blue Water Bonanza:The bountiful reef paralleling the east coast of Andros forms a steep wall with a rapid drop off into a nutrient rich deep blue sea called the tongue of the ocean. This body of water drops to more than a mile in depth. It’s a huge deepwater cul-de-sac with powerful upwellings that trap huge concentrations of bait and large numbers of pelagics. The most notable of which are mahi, mackerel, tuna and big blue marlin.The good news when fishing the cobalt blue water off the east side of Andros Island is that tactics and tackle are generally universal and what is effective here is also good there. It is important to remember that if you plan on trolling natural baits, you should bring a few frozen packs with you or plan on catching the bait there. I have had some great success slow-trolling just about any small member of the jack family. I have also witnessed a huge kingfish caught on a big yellowtail snapper, so don’t be afraid to be creative and experiment. Trolling artificials works like a dream, just remember to “match the hatch”, and present what you think the big guys off Andros are feeding on. Skirted lures, cedar plugs and deep diving plugs will all do the trick. The addition of a single fifty to eighty pound class outfit prepares you for an encounter with the giant of the tongue, the blue marlin. It has been proven over and over that trolling natural or artificial baits in the tongue can be equally effective on mid size blues in the two to six hundred pound range. For both productivity and comfort, successful blue water fishing off Andros points toward the days of late spring and summer, although this is also a year-round fishery. Be aware that the local sport fishing community on Andros does not really place emphasis on offshore fishing like Bimini, Chub Cay or Walkers Cay. Most of the preparation definitely the tackle will be your responsibility.Getting To Andros:To insure the finest lodge, facilities, amenities, guides and the least-pressured fishing grounds, I really recommended that you utilize a stateside outfitter, such as Angling Destinations (1-800-211-8530). I have been to the Bahamas many times, and have heard too many horror stories from readers, colleagues and everyday anglers that decided to play “free agent”, only to have their best-laid plans evaporate upon arrival. These guys at Angling Destinations are really super. They’re professional outfitters who are committed to providing you the best angling experience possible. They have plenty of options available and will coordinate and route your entire trip, including air, water and taxi transportation. The most recent information I have from multiple sources specifies Tranquility Hill (Behring Point, North Andros), Tiamo Resort (South Bight) and Bair Bahamas Guesthouse (South Andros) as lodges that really go the extra mile to achieve success and 100% satisfaction!Arriving On Andros IslandNow that you’ve got your feet planted on Andros, you can relax. You have brought what you need, your outfitter’s plans have you neatly dropped off at the Lodge and all you need to do is patiently await tomorrow’s fishing. It’s time to get into the island spirit and slow down. Enjoy the sun, sand and salty smells of Andros. After a delicious fresh seafood dinner and a couple of cocktails, you’ll be mesmerized by the spell of the islands known as pure tranquility. You owe it to yourself to enjoy the moment. As the sun sets and you soon behold a sky full of stars, you’ll feel like you’re in heaven. As you’re gaze into the sky deepens, you quickly come to the realization that your trip to Andros is an absolute success before you’ve wet a line.

Andros Checklist:You should plan on bringing any and all rod, reels and terminal tackle that you will need or think you might need. It is best to travel with your rods in travel tubes while soft tackle bags for all your other accessories will fit perfectly into suitcases. Remember, airlines ban any sharp pointed objects in your carry-on; this includes hooks, lures, scissors etc. Don’t forget simple items such as photo ID’s and any prescriptions or over the counter medications you might be taking. In addition, bring a small first aid kit just to play it safe. Keep in mind, you’re traveling to a small, secluded fishing lodge on a remote paradise island, not to the Hyatt Regency.Fishing Gear and Accessoriesfor an Andros trip:One or more of the following are recommended:•7’- 8’ spinning outfit with 6 lb. or 8 lb. line for flats and shallow water fishing •7’ rod with 15 lb. or 20 lb. line for cuda, kings, dolphin and sailfish•30 lb. conventional outfit for reef fishing and offshore•50 lb. conventional outfit for tuna and marlin•Bonefish Flyrod- 9’-10’ rod; 8 weight•Permit Flyrod- 9’-10’ rod; 9 weight Artificial Lures:•Wiggle jigs, flat head, in various small sizes for bonefish and permit•Tube lures for barracuda•Various swimming plugs for inshore and offshore species•Bucktail and nylon jigs in a variety of sizes •Skirted trolling luresBonefish flies:•Clouser Minnow #4, #6 in tan/white•Crazy Charlie #4,#6 in tan/white•Bonefish Special #4.#6Permit Flies:•Del’s Merkin Crab #1,2•The McCrab #1,#2Terminal tackle:•Hooks in various sizes for flats to offshore species•Various size egg sinkers•Leader material and extra line for all inshore and offshore applications.•Polarizes sunglasses with side shields•Multi-purpose tool•Pliers•Portable water bottle•Hook file•Reel lube•Bic Lighter

Tarpon versus Bonefish

Dynamic Duo



Tarpon -VS- Bonefish

This year, south Florida’s winter was as cold, vicious, and ornery as it could be. The icy blows chilled and kicked up our waters from back bays to the Gulf Stream. While the early spring months may still feature some encore fronts, they inevitably will bring warmth while the sun will be higher in the sky and the days will be longer. As South Florida’s marine waters begin to warm, inshore anglers will break through their winter thaw, and begin the water temperature watch with excitement and expectancy. After spending too much time in the sixties, surf temperatures will climb back in the mid-seventies. This lifts the starting gate for south Florida inshore anglers to pursue the return of the dynamic duo, the tarpon and the bonefish.During the previous cooler weather, south Florida tarpon fishing spots were geographicallylimited. Places like Miami’s Government and Haulover Cut offered a nightly ebb tide buffetof shrimp and this kept some tarpon around. The warm water discharge havens in Port Everglades also attracted tarpon.Springtime’s warmth triggers movement in both the residential and migratory stocks of thesilver kings. With spring three basic patterns emerge. For starters our local tarpon will broaden their horizons and their feeding range will dramatically increase. The Government Cut tarpon will begin feeding well into the daylight hours with a prime location being two hundred yards south around the Range Markers. In addition tarpon will migrate into warming waters such as Whitewater Bay near Flamingo and Biscayne Bay in Miami, and feed on the growing schools of mullet and pilchards. The most truly migratory groups of tarpon will launch from the deep waters of the Florida Straits and begin their northward trek up through the shoal waters and beaches along both coasts. When targeting spring tarpon in south Florida, keep these aforementioned patterns in mind.Springtime tarpon become available to anglers all the way from the inside bays to the outside beaches, and each locale has its own angling system. Some of the best baits for back bay tarpon are fresh mullet chunks fished on the bottom.This is an especially effective daytime bait. Come nightfall and the sharks will generally overwhelm your bottom baits. Casting large swimming plugs becomes more realistic.Towards the south Florida coast and beaches, the pristine blue waters become quite clear.Add to this the shoal water depths of migrating tarpon, and you have the perfect situationfor casting artificials from both a flats skiff or a bay boat.Daytime schools of moving and rolling tarpon are quite sensitive to sound and will spook easily if they hear boat engine noise. The best approach while fishing off the beach and along the coast is to pole your skiff towards the rolling schools. If the water gets over eight or ten feet deep, electric motors become the method of choice for propelling your boat towards the fish.When the school gets into range, remember to cast well ahead of the lead fish and retrieveyour lure with a slow even retrieve. This is as true for heavy fly tackle as it is for plug tackle and jerkbaits. Because of the tarpon’s rough mouth, a heavier leader is essential. For medium fish size fish of around fifty pounds and with medium tackle, use a at least a fifty pound mono leader. Larger tarpon and heavier tackle demand leader material testing as high as eighty to a hundred pounds.When using artificials in clear daytime water, think of switching to fluorocarbon leader material due to its decreased visibility factors.South Florida lays claim to the beautiful Florida Keys, which presents its own unique tarponfishery. Silver Kings congregate en masse under bridges which connect this island paradise. The epicenter of the action begins in Islamorada, at Indian Key Bridge and extends well into the lower Keys at Bahia Honda Bridge. It’s a tarpon extravaganza for novice and expert alike. These bridge tarpon feed both during the day and night and actively grab artificials and live baits. However, a betting man would give the best odds to a live mullet fished on an outgoing tide right in the shadow line of a bridge at midnight.The last two things to remember are crucial. Tarpon have hard bony mouths, and an extremely sharp hook is a must. Check your hook point often and file it whenever you have the slightest doubt. Also remember to bow (drop the rod tip) to your tarpon when it jumps - this will minimize the chance of your hook being thrown or your line snapping under too much strain. South Florida’s bonefish - the Gray Ghost - shares top billing with the tarpon, yet it issuch a different creature. Bonefish are shallow water grazers and look primarily to bottom dwelling organisms like shrimp, crabs, and clams asthe fodder. In contrast, tarpon feed on multiple life forms all along the water column. Bonefish, unlike tarpon, are not truly migratory fish. Basically, they move on to the inshore flats with increasing warmth and/or theflooding tide. Conversely, as the tide ebbs out or if colder weather plunges flats temperaturesdown, bonefish move to deeper water where temperatures are more moderate. Though the Gray Ghost is so much smaller than theSilver King, its fighting qualities more than make up for its lesser stature. Who’s to saywhich of the duo is more exciting? The slow roll, jump, and giant splash of a big tarpon, or the silvery flash of a tailing bonefish coupled with sizzling hundred yard runs in eightinches of water? The bonefish of south Florida have a geographical range from Miami’s Key Biscayne all the way down to Key West. Biscayne Bay and Islamorada still rank as the two top producers of the largest bonefish on the planet, afact we can take pride in. In these locales, a ten pound bonefish is hardly news, but would have anglers in the Bahamas, Belize, and the Seychelles dancing for joy. In contrast to the multiple fishing systems employed for tarpon, bone fishing is a sight fishing and casting specialty. Learning and relearning the crucial tactics will keep your bone fishing skills sharply honed. HOW YOU SEE BONEFISH WILL NEED TO CHANGE BASED ONDIFFERENT CONDITIONS. You will need to look at the water’s surface in order to best see tailing bonefish andschools of fish pushing water. In low light, get to the shallowest flats and train your eyesto see the water as a solid film pierced by potential bonefish activity.As the sun comes up and the tide rises too high for bonefish to tail in, put on your polarized UV/glare-blocking sunglasses. Because the fish you will be looking for now are cruising fish below the surface. Retrain your eyes to see through the water toward the bottom. Be sure to wear a cap with a long bill and dark underside. This will help eliminate further glare and help your eyes penetrate the water. SILENCE IS GOLDEN. Many professional guides believebonefish can hear the water pressure made by far away wading anglers for great distances. Some even believe that bonefish can hear human voices and other atmospheric sounds. It’s certain that bonefish will spook when sudden loud sounds penetrate into the water world. Never slam hatches in your boat or scrape your push pole across the bottom.STILLNESS IS GOLDEN. Sudden movement - particularly overhead movement will generally spooks bonefish. They equate this motion with danger and predation from above. When you see a fish, squat, move cautiously, and make a stealthy cast. Above all, don’t wave your rod or push pole to point out the location of incoming bonefish. Use the well-known clock system to help your partner see the fish as well.LINES OUT OF THE WATER! This refers not to the days end, but the best tactic after you hook up with a bonefish. The flats always have some abrasive bottom and the higher you hold your rod tip, the more line remains out of the water. This tactic will definitely reduce your cutoffs. There’s so much more to be said of hunting the Silver King and the Gray Ghost, but that will have to wait for another time. For now, let’s be grateful that spring’s warmth will bring us the great dynamic duo!

Lunar Times 2006

Lunar Phases, 2006
All times are Universal Time
Lun#* New Moon First Quarter Full Moon Last Quarter
---- ---------------- ---------------- ---------------- ----------------
1028 2006/01/29 14:15 2006/02/05 06:29 2006/02/13 04:45 2006/02/21 07:17
1029 2006/02/28 00:31 2006/03/06 20:16 2006/03/14 23:36 2006/03/22 19:11
1030 2006/03/29 10:16 2006/04/05 12:01 2006/04/13 16:41 2006/04/21 03:29
1031 2006/04/27 19:44 2006/05/05 05:14 2006/05/13 06:52 2006/05/20 09:21
1032 2006/05/27 05:26 2006/06/03 23:06 2006/06/11 18:04 2006/06/18 14:09
1033 2006/06/25 16:06 2006/07/03 16:37 2006/07/11 03:02 2006/07/17 19:13
1034 2006/07/25 04:32 2006/08/02 08:46 2006/08/09 10:54 2006/08/16 01:52
1035 2006/08/23 19:10 2006/08/31 22:57 2006/09/07 18:43 2006/09/14 11:16
1036 2006/09/22 11:46 2006/09/30 11:04 2006/10/07 03:13 2006/10/14 00:26
1037 2006/10/22 05:15 2006/10/29 21:26 2006/11/05 12:59 2006/11/12 17:46
1038 2006/11/20 22:19 2006/11/28 06:30 2006/12/05 00:25 2006/12/12 14:32

Friday, November 11, 2005

Some things Change and Some Things Stay the Same

Yes, South Floridians will indeed go on about Wilma, and what's left and what's changed-that's how people cope and work it through. On the Gold Coast, we did not get hammered the way Florida Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands did. Biscayne Bay was left filthy for weeks, though, as a Very strong Cat. 1 storm left our coast to do its dirty Tsunami work to West End, Grand Bahama Island, as well as redemolish Walkers Cay, according to certain accounts. Hurricanes displace water, fish, and can change bottom contours. The areas they do not affect remain predictable.

The areas that were protected from #1- floods of storm surge, and #2- severe winds, and #3-tree blowdown debris emerged entirely intact. if you want to find these places, think the above 3 factors through as rule-outs to find unaffected spots. You can count on them to be at whatever seasonal status for November fish populations unaffected by hurricanes. A good example would be the West Lake area of Hollywood, Florida and the canals of Fort it gets cooler, give these areas the kayak and fly rod treatment in the heat of the afternoon sun around 3.p.m. You should find good fishing for the local stocks of smaller non-migratory tarpon.


Friday, November 04, 2005

The Seasons Change

Storm weary, wind weary, warm weary, I hit South Biscayne Bay , a tea-colored, debris -strewn sinister soup. A few tarpon seen, but hellishly impossible in the dirty water. Then jigging with a new Bass Pro Shop saltwater plug outfit, I worked the channels and caught big ladyfish, jacks, and a five-pound mackeral. ENE winds at 25 mph and Thanksgiving ahead....The Seasons Change.


Monday, October 31, 2005

Fall Tarpon Transition

With the horrid hurricane, cold front, and 2 days of a northeaster, Miami's tarpon are headed into the back bays which provide lots of shelter. Todays winds were 25-30 mph out of the NW, but i went 1 for 2 in conditions so gusty, your rod was blown bent.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Quick Jog to get Post-Wilma Reports

Did a triangular hopscotch to get a sense of how the South Florida area was doing coastally from my friends, who are local guides in some of the best fishing areas in South Florida. Starting in Islamorada, Captain Greg Poland said everyone was okay, doing yardwork, and awaiting an outstanding fall fishing season. Further down the island chain, Captain Fernand Braun on Little Torch Key said that the Lower Keys took a beating but his good planning helped him to emerge unscathed- Fernand looks forward to a "permity" fall with the good prevailing weather. He did mention that Little Palm Island had landscaping that needs to be replaced after the storm, but core structures are fine. Due North at Sanibel Island, my friend Captain Mike Smith reports less damage, but some storm impacts. He also mentioned that the red tide is gone and the snook and redfishing should be getting back to an excellent fall norm. East across the state in Jupiter, Captain Butch Constable went through the eye of Wilma and reports winds much higher in rain band gusts than prior storms Jean and Frances. Sadly, he said that the western parts of Palm Beach County are very hard-hit in every possible way. He mentioned Broward County was in "very bad shape", in addition to the North Broward to Palm Beach corridor. Butch mentioned that a summery fall had produced only a quick spurt of finger mullet and bluefish before the storm.


Hey, Wilma!

An anhinga perches on a broken tree limb in a debris-strewn lake on a besotted golf course. Not far away, mile-long gas lines sit like predatory millipedes- angry shouting and fighting everywhere as residents and newcomers reel in a tri-county stripped of electric, gas, and communications. A rainbow of responses from parties who have the nerve to say, "we couldn't anticipate the breadth or severity of the devastation" when the same pathetic excuse was used such a short time ago with Katrina. Max Mayfield said, "plan on a Category 3 storm." As for the storm's expanse, did you need a tape measure...just look at a NOAA screen. Better yet, how about CNN or the Weather Channel?

Eldery people weep in Broward retirement communities, puzzling over acquiring some ice to keep their insulin cold. Americans stranded in Cancun, an ex-tropical paradise that went from looking like trendy Miami Beach to Post WWII Berlin. Hurricane-pounded Floridians now walking in the same dazed circles as Gulf Coasters- some even less fortunately members of both groups.

What price, Paradise? Anglers no longer able to ease up to the gas station and gas up their skiffs-some even using their boat fuel tank as a source for their car. While anglers in the Keys have less angry multitiudes than the Tri-County area, their beloved Key West sits partially under water, Sloppy Joe's corner looking like a mini Ninth Ward flood-out.

Good anglers are good planners and good weathermen. Let's be sure our officials get a good dose of that!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Do You Get the Cabin Blues, Too?

Wilma thrashes my home of the late sixties, Cozumel, possibly speeding up the impermanence of things as well as kicking my recollections of a simpler past there into endless kaleidoscopic shards. Miguel, donde esta usted? The last few days have congested my angler's muse: lowered skies, rain, a postponed trip to the Bahamas, and a lightening strike last night that set off hundreds of alarms that screamed like tortured electric machine-wolves. Hot coffee, soup, blankets, TV, and a cascade of regressive pleasures are called into duty to ease the pain of waiting for another pinwheel, all amidst wondering and cynically chuckling off the B.S. of an "it's just a cycle" explanation when confronted with numbers of hurricanes never seen before. The chilly pain of knowing these water witches are the werewolf progeny of a warming world. It's okay, then, to linger longer over a ruby-colored glass of Pinot noir and enjoy a pasta dish tucked cozily in the fragant shadows of a new cafe in Hollywood Circle-thats a fine way of playing the watery, gray-skied cards that have been dealt!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Return of the Bonefish

The cool front that pushed out the water witches of the sky left a crescent of clear heavens, dry air, and slightly lowered water temps. Lessening daylight also might help the cause in this summery fall. I had my first bonefish hooked up within 5 minutes, staked up tight to the shore on an early a.m. high tide. 2 for 4 was the score by midday, then off to other things. Great results in the Keys with a potential world fly rod record coming from Islamorada: 13.9 pounder on 12 pound tippet. To top that, The Marathon International Bonefish Tournament, which featured 30 anglers on 15 boats for three days racked up 224 bonefish releases. How 'bout dem apples?


Friday, September 30, 2005

A Summery Fall

Buildups surround Miami...some mushroom into black and gray. Others do a cotton-candy pose, then vanish. Out early today in South Biscayne Bay, which features 84 degree water temperatures. Not surprising in all this heat, plenty of tarpon. While plug casting for them, I let out a 10-pound spinner with a live shrimp. Not 10 seconds after setting the latter down, line flew off it. I grabbed it, closed the bail, and struck. The long runs, surfacings, circling the boat, all without jumping made me think of a permit. After a half-hour battle that wound up a half-mile from the hookup, indeed it was "quicksilver" and a good 25-pounder at that. My day was "made," but i cound not resist plugging some bird-filled channels, and loaded up on jacks, blue runners, and a few nice muttons. The transition to fall can only be felt in shorter days.


Friday, September 23, 2005

A Time To Help !!!!

Still suffering from Katrina, the Gulf Coast braces for another onslaught from Rita. These people need help. On a personal note, I am offering a fishing trip on my 16 foot Hewes flats fishing boat in exchange for an appropriate donation to any bonafide charity that immediately is helping these people in so much pain. Examples include The Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, ClintonBushKatrinaFund, and the like. There is nothing more important in this world than to ease the suffering of humanity. Give something, help someone in need, and you have my promise that you'll add another shining star in the sky and sleep with a full heart!

Contact information is on the website.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Back from Little Palm Island

Without hesitation, I'd characterize this exotic destination off Little Torch Key, Florida as a 6- star experience floating high above a 5- star destination world. I'll be writing about this experience at length in the future, yet I must say I cannot recall such excellence and such an eye for every wonderful detail( I fished with Captain Fernand Braun deep into the Content Key area Saturday and he found us loads of tarpon, trophy barracuda and shark. Thanks to this guide, photographer, and diver, my trusty little 10 pound plug rod was kept well-bent until midday, when we were chased back to Little Palm Island by a fierce squall. Captain Fernand's phone number is 305-872-9004 and his email is Great times, great destination,great guide ...who could ask for more?


Friday, September 09, 2005

The Sun Also Rises...

Back out today, a day of drier Northwest winds, draining SFWMD canals spewing fresh cold water in North Bay. Things are poised for a Fall transition. The three storms are going Northeast-let them flee like wicked witches, to perish in the cooler waters of the North Atlantic.
Another transition color was silver, for the hordes of glass minnows working their way south of Broad Causeway. The cormorants, gulls, and pelicans were having Thanksgiving Day dinner quite early! But the tarpon, where were they? Delicious mysteries that keep us coming back for more..Another slice of adventure, please, sir?

A new boss tapped to oversee New Orleans, better changes in store.

The last column spoke of tomorrow, the future, and passion. In that spirit, I am pleased and delighted to say i'll be headed to Little Palm Island - - to do a story on the fishing and the resort itself that, in fact, is one of the world's most exquisite five-star destinations. Little Palm Island is a celebration of life itself. Visit their website to get a sense of this. I'll be writing about this wonderful place at length in the near future....


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Here's to the Future!

At times like this when so many fellow Americans are strangers in a strange land-their own country!- It's essential to pull back and try to find some perspective and a big picture. Part of this attempt is the realization that although not everything can be restored, there is, and will be a tomorrow. This is our future, and where our hope can reside. Katrina reminds us how small we are in this cosmos, and forces us to bear mystery as we come to grips with what happened on the Gulf Coast. Yesterday is over, today is a new day, and tomorrow will come. Let's celebrate the fact that although all things must pass, let's make the most of the now, of this irretrievably unique moment, and sing our song! This means doing what we've done-those things we love-with even more pride and dedication. One thing I can say, is that I am so glad I am here in South Florida-with all its good and bad-and that so much of my life, I've been able to fish. Most wise anglers realize, of course, that fishing has nothing to do with has to do with the search for peace, passion, and hope.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Return To Key Island Estate

A quick note to report that two days fishing here August 18 and 19 yielded 32 snook and 3 pompano- all on a sight-fished basis. Their website is . I do not recall seeing tailing pompano anywhere, but on these soft Gulf surf flats, it's a sight to behold. Not easy fishing, when the pomps and cruising snook have such a biomass-forage on nature's buffet table.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Miguel clearly was making a course for what he called the "lighthorse", but on the way to a meeting with his roan stallion, the water in front of us erupted in all directions with the splashes of gamefish carnage. As we got closer, I made out some half-airborne blackfin tuna savaging what looked to be a form of sardine.

Out came my trusty traveling spinner- two pieces of rod became one. I threaded the eight pound line and forty pound mono leader through the guides with shaky hands, and grabbed one of the tiny homemade jigs Miguel kept on the helm. One quick improved clinch knot, an open bail, quick cast, and rodjerk was all the time it took to tell you now that I was hooked up back then, almost forty years ago, to my first blackfin tuna- a fish that runs like an Indy Car. When the arbor of my reel made an unwelcome appearance on this show of shows, I tapped Miguel and told him in Spanish( a mixture of anxious "signing" and utterance) to come out of idle gear and follow the fish. He did. I regained precious line, and as Captain Buck Starck-my Islamorada mentor- put it, "got well."

Eventually, the silver and black battler came alongside and he gaffed the fish expertly in the head. We looked around us to find more striking tuna, but the calm sea indicated the tuna had moved on in their typically hit and run tunahood.

Miguel smiled and motioned for me to sit down. He pulled the tuna onto his cutting board and with his razor-sharp cuchillo started slicing shoulder strips off the still-quaking tuna. He cut the skins off the strips and laid them on a plate. He dug out a small bottle filled with what looked- I hoped- to be salt and pepper and lightly dusted them. He held the plate my way and said, "take!" I did, and had my first sashimi experience. I knew the Native American idea, and maybe Aztec, too, that when I ingested my trophy, it became a part of me and vice versa. So, I tunaed my way through a bunch more tuna strips. Water was turned down for the iced Carta Blancas I brought onboard. One beer was just right. Dessert was naranja y manzana- orange and apple.
As I happily crunched away on my apple, Miguel put the vessel in gear.

We had not even arrived at the "lighthorse" and yet the day, the action, was full and fulfilling already...all the rest would be a Mexican gravy on our Cozumel enchilada, back in time, before the time this place would change. Who knew what lay ahead of us, but who ever does?


Friday, August 12, 2005

Tarpon ad infishitem

Miami's reeling with tarpon-in both senses of the word. Fish everywhere- I left them after catching 7 fish from 40 to 100 pounds all before 10 a.m. For those basin tarpon, take a hint from Key West harbor and chum the fish into excitement. MOST IMPORTANTLY, BRING SCHOOL SCISSORS AND CUT OLD FILLET AND CARCASS CHUM INTO MINNOW SHAPED STRIPS----YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THE RESULTS!! They think they're eating killed whitebait. This is simply a re-embracement of the old match-the-hatch theory.

On the low tide when the tarpon are off the flats and holding in the channels and bays, look for baitfish schools in those areas. I often use mullet as bait in High Summer since the tarpon are not eating winter shrimp. Thy're staging for the mullet run, and looking for oily finfish. I scissor cut the mullet into minnow shapes and chum "on anchor." This gives a steady stream of what looks like the dream of minnows from heaven to a tarpon!


Saturday, August 06, 2005

I Fall for the Fall

Excitement takes many forms, but really kicks in high gear for future anticipations. My favorite Bahamian island is Abaco...the diversity of environments and habitat are incredible. A user-friendly island with superb flats and offshore fishing. Its got sounds, outside keys, history, great resorts, cottages, and wonderful guides. I'm pleased to be headed to Bluff House( on Green Turtle Key (home of some monster bones) and fishing with well-known Capt. Ricky Sawyer ( . With anticipations like these, who can go wrong?


If you get to Skagway......

I'm well towards accepting that certain feelings and impressions have a relentless way of impressing themselves on the mind again and again....yearning reveries are in that category, so my dreaming of Alaska's mists, mountains, bears, whales, salmon, halibut, ulu knives, berries, light nights, hearty food, treetop majesties, chilly mornings, smokehouse scents, and a thousand other companeros acknowledges another "move-in" upstairs, alongside all those other places in the world's four corners that attest to a life that can pinch itself as the camera rewinds the tape as it's over and can proudly say, "yes, I've been there."

One "zoom" in my reveries is the town of Skagway way up in the Inside Passage. This is one "movie set" of a mining town that seems to have been preserved for the pleasures of commemorating that life-wooden store and hotel fronts, a locomotive with a face sporting a circular spinning bore device, squared -out easily plotted streets. Although cruise ships dock here, they are a mile's walk from town and do not intrude. In fact, I was one of the first off one chilly morning and my walk to this and any other new place was filled with that special cluster of feelings and sensations so familiar they could almost be named.

Just before town, there's a stream that runs under the path via a culvert. The water there is the icy-misted medium colored by glacial silt. I looked downstream and saw a fish jump, and then another, and another. I ran quickly to the stream side and got a heart-pounding look a loads of large king salmon from 20 to 30 pounds struggling their way upstream. My companion was mentioning something about catching the train up into the mountains and Liarsville, but the voice was so far off it could have been a surfer off of Southern Cal. My only thoughts were focused on grabbing up my rod, reel, and lure...........more,soon.